By The Nation
Today, the problem is the other way around as more and more kids are overweight due to many factors, including heredity and the way they are brought up. The modern lifestyle and better economic well-being have led to convenient access to ready-to-eat food and snacks which are high in flours and sugar.
Child obesity is now a major issue because it negatively affects children’s development both physically and mentally. People who are overweight from a young age will have medical issues similar to those in adults such as diabetes and high blood pressure. We should talk to our pediatrician on child obesity for further details.
Dr Rottanart, what is the medical definition of obesity in children? We basically look at the weight and height ratio as well as their age. This ratio should not exceed 120 per cent. A ratio of 140-200 is obese, while over 200 is hyper obese with potential medical complications.
There are many factors contributing to child obesity such as genetic, environmental, upbringing and other factors. Worldwide, child obesity is on the uptrend, including in Thailand. Today’s lifestyle and mobile media have played a leading role in this uptrend as children tend to use less energy while consuming more fast foods, snacks, and sugary drinks, but less natural foods, especially fruits and vegetable.
For parents, what is your advice? Actually, we need to follow up on the obesity issue from child birth and monitor the weight/height ratio regularly when children have appointments for vaccination. We can take precautionary measures from a very young age with the help of parents and caregivers, especially in terms of food intakes and calories while adjusting their eating behavior to prevent the onset of obesity and its complications, including child diabetes.
What’s about the eating habit? Parents have a major role in this factor. We also found that kids who are breastfed by mothers are healthier with less obesity or no obesity problem. After 6 months, kids need proper nutrition covering all five major groups of food while they should avoid oily, fried and other unhealthy stuffs. When they are 2 or older, they should also turn to low-fat dairy products if obesity could be a problem.
Parents also need to be role models in the household in terms of eating behavior. Unhealthy snacks and sugary drinks, for example, should be out of sight. Parents should also lead the way in doing more physical activities to avoid a sedentary lifestyle or spending too many hours in front of mobile phones and other digital devices.
Basically, we need to restrict the inactive hours when little energy is used such as playing mobile games while watching TV and eating a lot of unhealthy snacks for hours.
When should kids start regular exercise? In fact, most children are quite energetic so parents may introduce them to proper exercise suitable for their age. For example, biking, walking and other outdoor activities are good.
In Thailand, most obese kids have a weight-to-height ratio of 140-160 which are relatively mild. We have seen only a few who are 200 or more.
If teens aged from 10-15 are already obese, will they face a more serious problem afterwards?. Yes, teenagers are more independent and it will be more difficult for parents to manage their diets.
Besides, dietary control and physical exercise, there are other methods to tackle obesity in young adults when their cases are serious. Medication and surgery are among the other options.
Dr Rottanart, there is also a high probability that obese teens will become obese adults with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease.
Genetically, we have discovered certain genes are responsible for obesity so this is also a factor. If both parents are overweight, there is a high chance that their children may also be overweight. The environmental factor is also crucial since kids in overweight households tend to over-eat.
10.28-12.22 —Overall, the best way to prevent child obesity is to promote breastfeeding for newborns. The less formula feeding is the better for obesity prevention. Afterwards, kids should be fed according to their age, with less sweet and fried foods as well as less sugary drinks, but more healthy food such as fish.
For school-age kids, it is recommended that parents restrict the number of hours for kids using mobile and other digital devices. For example, kids aged from 2 to 5 should not play smartphone games more than two hours per day, while older kids need to do more physical activities. Parents should be role models and do these activities together as a family.
For teens, they have to take care of themselves with proper diet and regular exercise. Three meals a day are necessary but they should avoid food and snacks with a lot of flour and sugar contents which leads to obesity.